The outbreak of violence in northen Rakhine State led to a major humanitarian crisis since August 25 last year and attracted bad press, which industry experts believe could have an impact on the tourism sector.
“We need not fear the decline in arrivals from western and European markets. If we change our tourism focus and do more tourism promotions, it will be a better situation,” he said, but added that the government ne take more initiates to attract tourists, especially from Asian countries.
“The Asian market is very close to our country, that is why the government should open up a market so they can come in easily. If this happens, the tourism sector will flourish and generate more revenue for the country,” U Khin Zaw said.
According to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism’s statistics, Myanmar received 3.1 million international visitors in the first 11 months of 2017, which was 20pc higher compared to the same period in 2016.
But tourists arriving from Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, the United Kingdom and the United States fell from 10pc to 20pc in 2017. In contrast, travellers from Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, China, Japan and Thailand increased.
Destinations that depended on European markets such as Mrauk-U, Nagapli, Inle, Kalaw, Pintaya and Bagan would be further affected, but those which relied on Asian tourists, such as Yangon, Kyaiktiyo [Golden Rock Pagoda] and Bago were less affected, according industry experts.
Revenue from tourism could also see a dip due to the varied length of stay of different tourists groups. For instance, Asians mostly spend five days in the country but western and European travellers stay over 10 days.
According to U Kyaw Min Oo, managing director of Equalink Travel and Tours, tour companies lost almost 75pc of their businesses compared to 2016 due to rising competition — not solely from the Rakhine crisis.
“We have to do a lot to recover from this situation. Especially release the right news to the world and tell peopl that the real situation is different here. It will take time to stabilise,” U Kyaw Min Oo said.